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How should change be managed successfully?

7 minutes
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Stretch Conference Special Edition

In this new episode of IseeQ’s TechTalk series, Jurgen Appelo CEO at Happy Melly and Péter Váradi Engineering Manager at IBM talk all about agile transformation, change management and how innovation plays a critical role in every company’s life, with some hands-on tips and tricks on how the workforce can be motivated. 

In this short article you will only find our favourite bits of the discussion but if it has caught your interest, you can listen to the full podcast episode on one of the links above. 

As most of you know, Jurgen is the author of numerous books such as Management 3.0, Managing for Happiness and his latest work being Startup, Scaleup, Screwup. As well as, he is a serial founder, a successful entrepreneur and a speaker. He is pioneering management to help creative organisations survive and thrive in the 21st century. He offers games, tools and practices in order to achieve a new and improved management with fewer managers on board. So, it is a great opportunity to have him sit down with us and share his extensive experience and knowledge about one of the hottest topics that companies have to deal with today. 

In consideration of the density and complexity of this topic, Péter directly points out that there are some misunderstandings when it comes to the concepts of agile adoption and agile transformation and that it is important to understand the difference between the two in order to fully grasp how change can be managed. Jurgen tells us that agile adoption is just where the whole process starts: “You adopt certain practices to get a feeling of what it means to become agile but it does not really mean that you have the agile DNA – as some people would say -, for that you need to fully transform.” Practices here mean daily stand-up meetings or biweekly retrospectives that can be easily adopted but to be fully transformed, the whole structure and culture of an organisation has to be changed. By following certain practices, it becomes clear what works for the company and what does not, and through that understanding it is easier to create unique innovative practices that can help entering the level of transformation where agility becomes natural. It is, however, really easy for a company to stop at the adoption level, which is mostly because they are checking boxes by trying out all different elements that are deemed agile, while this should only help them start and then they should move on. “Just like fish do not have a word for water, the most agile companies do not have a word for agile, it is just how they are, it is natural for them” Jurgen adds. 

It is quite clear today that management itself can actually be the biggest obstacle in such a transition. Speaking from his own experience, Jurgen tells us that there are several reasons why. First one being a territorial issue if we look at a company from a hierarchical perspective “because [they] invested years in the progression of [their] career to get there”, so as a manager they are understandably going to protect their position and their titles. Another issue that might arise is the fact that many organisations are trying to survive by being profitable. But when we are dealing with new product development, new innovative products and services that are yet completely unproven, the main issue is not the question of profitability but the fact that we might be making a product that nobody wants. Jurgen clearly states that doing the right thing should always come before doing things right: “remaining profitable is doing things right but doing the right thing is inventing a product that people really want to use”. Thus, it is important to invest in product development and to allocate resources smartly. Jurgen even goes onto saying that larger companies should have startup-like teams with their own budgets with everything coming out of those budgets, including their salaries or conference tickets because then we can really expect those teams to become creative, innovative and self-organising. Meaning that the management should not be given the responsibility to protect the one and only budget that pays for everything and everyone but it should be distributed among the teams according to their roles and responsibilities regarding the product’s life cycle.

As Péter sums it up, “innovation is basically the key for both big companies and small startups at the same time”. However, it is not so linear as most of the frameworks dealing with the topic show, so Jurgen, through his strong liking of design thinking, has developed a model that represents the rather messy process: the innovation vortex. Surely, there are several distinct steps that have to be taken but they do not necessarily need to be neatly coming after each other, they can be done in different orders. “As long as – as a design thinker or a startupper – you do everything that is necessary, all those seven streams of work as I call it, then you are probably doing a good job at being innovative” Jurgen states. Thus, the vortex model is this merged concepts with a new name and illustration that metaphorically better resonates with the kind of work that an innovator is actually doing. It is again the same motion as with agile adoption and transformation, there are certain practices that have to be followed in order to set off successfully but then we have to evolve beyond them and go further with our work in a more flexible, more organic way. Because at the end of the day, “it is more like a mindset than it is a procedure to be followed” as Péter puts it. 

Would you like to know more about this topic? 

Then you should listen to the full podcast episode because surely there is more information you do not want to keep unheard. 

If you are interested in other topics as well, you should keep following our BLOG where we are coming with new TechTalk episodes every Monday. 

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